Women urged to have a smear test as figures reveal over 48,000 not attending in Sandwell and West Birmingham

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Over 48,000 women in Sandwell and West Birmingham are putting their lives at risk by not attending their smear test. NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group has issued the plea ahead of Cervical Screening Awareness Week, which takes place from 10-16 June.

In Sandwell and West Birmingham, the latest figures show that screening coverage has dropped to 66% in 2017/18 with over 48,300 women not taking up their screening invitation. Coverage in women aged 25-49 has dropped to 63% and women aged 50-64 has dropped to 73%. The national target is 80%.

Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, two women lose their lives to the disease every day and is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. Thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme, 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented – but the uptake of cervical screening is going down every year.

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited for cervical screening, also known as a smear test, every three years. After that, women are invited every five years until the age of 64. Since the introduction of cervical screening in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year across England.

For younger women, HPV vaccinations can help prevent seven out of 10 cervical cancers, and these are routinely given to girls across the country aged 12 and 13. This is a vaccination against the persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that causes changes to the cervical cells and is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers.

Prof Nick Harding, Chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

“As we see screening coverage go down year on year, we are also seeing the numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer rise. So, we are urging all women aged 25-64 not to miss out on a vital smear test as it could save their life.

“Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. Screening actually prevents cancer by detecting early abnormalities in the cervix, so they can be treated. During the early stages, cervical cancer will not often have any symptoms and the best way for it to be detected is through a screening. Prevention is the key to improving survival rates and cervical screening will save lives.”

Cervical Screening Awareness Week is run by Jo’s Trust. For more information visit https://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/cervical-screening-awareness-week